Back when they were compiling the Bible, a whole bunch of the most embarrassing stuff got left on the cutting room floor. Luckily, a bunch of those once-popular apocryphal books are still floating around out there. We've already told you about some of the most ridiculous and horrifying, but that was just the tip of the drunken, child-hating, surprisingly armpit-centric iceberg.
The Bible includes the story of John the Baptist, Jesus's cool cousin who is beheaded by the evil King Herod. But things go a little further in The Life Of John The Baptist, an early work traditionally credited to the 4th century Bishop Serapion, which relates how John returned from the dead to exact a truly spectacular revenge. The story picks up when John, already a famous prophet, starts spending all his time screaming "Don't marry your brother's wife" at Herod's palace through an angel-powered megaphone. This annoys Herod, who has indeed married his brother's wife (she was also Herod's niece, although John is apparently fine with this). And it really annoys his new wife, who sends her daughter Salome to do a sexy dance for her husband in exchange for John's execution. Great family situation over there.
John's head is brought to the royal family, who settle down for a really good gloat. But all of a sudden "the head of the blessed John let the locks of its hair loose from the plate, spread them, and flew into the center of the room." John then starts swooping around the room on his hair-o-copter, before the entire roof swings open and he zooms straight into the air and flies around the entire world for 15 years, shouting insults about Herod. Imagine being a poor peasant, minding your own business in some quiet Chinese village, when suddenly a severed head zips on by, rage-screaming about some jerk named Herod.
As for Herod himself, The Life says he was so surprised that he had a massive stroke and died on the spot. His wife also appears to have been quite startled, given that her eyes popped right out of her head and rolled away like marbles. At which point the roof fell on her. Then a giant mouth opened up in the ground and swallowed her whole, straight down to hell. To be honest, it kind of seems like Herod got off light in comparison. But what about Salome, who secured the execution by letting Herod have a different massive stroke to her sexy dancing? Well, she was so astonished that she was left completely insane...with dance madness!
As a result, she boogies all the way out of the palace and just grooves all the way up to a frozen lake (hopefully starting a few sweet ancient dance parties along the way). When she starts dancing on the lake, the ice gives way, leaving only her head above water. Fortunately, some soldiers are there to rescue her. Unfortunately, they can't get her out and settle for just cutting her head off (in fairness, there was some pretty strong evidence floating around for this not being fatal). At this point an actual whale somehow looms out of the depths and flips her body up into the air like a pancake. Which is a heck of a way to go, although the whale part just seems like overkill.
What's the most terrifying thing to see in the maternity ward when the doctors hold up your new baby? A tiny, fully clothed, John Leguizamo? Yes, obviously. But to discover the second worst thing, you have to turn to The Book Of Enoch, a 2nd century BCE work that was widely popular among early Christians, but is now canon only in Ethiopia. The book basically retells the story of Noah, which you're likely familiar with, assuming you enjoy upbeat children's songs about mass genocide.
Basically, God is angry at people for being giant assholes, so he drowns everyone in the hope that we'll take the hint (we don't). Only Noah and his family are saved, on a giant boat that presumably reeks of animal piss. But there's some important context for that in the Book Of Enoch. For starters, it explains that God only flooded the world because a bunch of angels sneaked down to hook up with humans, giving birth to a bunch of nightmarish monster babies. But a subsection called the Book Of Noah makes it pretty clear why none of said monsters just stole the ark from the entirely human Noah: Because he was the most terrifying one of all.
Apparently, Noah was born with bright red and white skin, bone white hair, and eyes that glowed so brightly they lit up the whole house. He also sat up and started talking immediately, presumably to answer all the screams of "what are you?!" That's not even us exaggerating, the book specifically says that Noah's own father was so terrified he fled the birthing room and ran all the way to hide with his own dad. It's a very bad sign when the birth of your firstborn ends with you curled up in your childhood bed, sucking your thumb and whispering "don't let the baby get me."
Noah's dad explains that he's scared of his kid, who he suspects is probably one of those half-angel monster babies everyone's popping out these days. Fortunately, Noah's grandfather Methuselah eventually goes to see Enoch, who assures him that Noah really is his grandson and that he will eventually save the world from a flood. He also advises Methuselah to tell his son to toughen up and stop hiding from a baby. Which remains good advice for new fathers up to this day.
The apostle Bartholomew is not exactly well-known, since he only appears in the Bible standing quietly in the background of crowd scenes. But in the early days of Christianity, there was a whole popular Gospel Of Bartholomew. It was ultimately rejected by Church leaders, but part of it appears to survive in the 3rd century Questions Of Bartholomew. Which basically portrays Bart as an annoying kid who won't stop asking questions that get everybody killed.
It all starts when the apostles pluck up the courage to ask the Virgin Mary what being impregnated by God was like (hey, we'd all be curious). Peter tries to bully John into doing it by calling him a virgin too, but then Bart just pops up and blurts it right out. Mary says she can't tell, because the sheer power of the story would make flames shoot out of her mouth like Charizard and burn up the whole world. But Bart keeps pestering her and she eventually relents, at which point flames start shooting out of her mouth and burning up the whole world. Look, they can't say they weren't warned. Fortunately Jesus sprints up and claps his hand over her mouth, before reminding the apostles not to ask his mom how she got knocked up.
Bartholomew then asks Jesus to drag Satan out of Hell so the apostles can ask him some questions. Jesus says no, since looking at Satan will instantly kill every disciple, but Bart bugs him until Jesus gives up and summons the devil, probably figuring that dealing with all Bart's whining will be punishment enough for Lucifer himself. But "straightway when the apostles saw him, they fell to the earth on their faces and became as dead." What will it take to get these people to listen to a freaking warning?
Jesus, presumably sighing heavily, resurrects everyone and lets Bartholomew ask the Devil a few questions. After a bunch of very boring angel trivia, which leaves even Bart repeatedly asking him to shut up, Satan reveals that he corrupted Eve by poisoning Eden's water supply with his armpit sweat, which made Eve insanely horny and led her into sin. We have some follow-up questions, but Bart, almost unbelievably, doesn't ask anything else. Seriously, dude has been goddamn Captain Questions this whole friggin story, but sexy armpit sweat in the water supply is where he ends the interview?! You know what Bart? We're glad all your lines got cut out of the Bible. That was the right call.
The Gnostics were a major sect of early Christianity, even though their beliefs were deeply weird by modern standards. We've already told you about the Borborite Gnostics, who believed that communion was best achieved by drinking a fascinating selection of bodily fluids. But enough about those perverts, let's talk about their goth cousins the Sethians. While the Borborites were slightly sticky and far too horny, the Sethians didn't have time for any of that, since their version of the universe was terrifying.
Most notably, the Sethians (named after Adam and Eve's son Seth) believed Jesus was a terrifying bodysnatching spirit. According to the Second Treatise Of Great Seth, Sethian Jesus journeyed to Earth and stole some dude's body: "I visited a bodily dwelling. I cast out the one who was in it first...for he was an earthly man, but I, I am from above the heavens." Seriously, dude was basically a Yeerk.
When the Crucifixion rolls around, spirit-Jesus abandons his host like an Agent from The Matrix. He then hovers overhead laughing while some random guy is tortured and executed in his place: "I was not afflicted at all...I did not die in reality but appearance...it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. It was another upon whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the heights...and I was laughing at their ignorance. And I subjected all their powers. For as I came downward, no one saw me. For I was altering my shapes, changing from form to form." Please, spirit-Jesus, we promise not to covet any more oxen, just don't warg into us and make us step in front of a bus!
Gnostic Jesus generally talks like a supervillain. The Book Of Thomas The Contender is basically an extended rant where he bellows stuff like "Only a little while longer, and that which is visible will dissolve; then shapeless shades will emerge, and in the midst of tombs they will forever dwell upon the corpses in pain and corruption of soul". Were they worshipping this guy or just trying to help him find the Infinity Stones?
The Acts Of Peter was part of an extremely popular early body of literature known as the Acts of the Apostles. Although instant best-sellers, they mostly didn't make it into the Bible, and given this horror story it's not hard to see why. It all starts well enough, with sick and injured people coming from all around to be miraculously healed by Peter. Eventually they pluck up the courage to say, "Hey Peter, it's great that you're curing everyone, but we can't help but notice that your own daughter is lying paralyzed over in the corner of the room with the whole right side of her body withered. Maybe give her a quick blast of the ol' healing hands?"
Fortunately, Peter can reassure them that he's not powerless to heal his own daughter. In fact, he tells her to stand up and walk, at which point she is immediately healed. The whole crowd cheers until Peter, glad his healing abilities aren't in doubt, instructs his daughter to "be again in thine infirmity, for this is expedient for me and for thee," causing her to immediately fall back down paralyzed. At which point the whole crowd cries out "Eh, what the hell, Pete?" (We're paraphrasing a little with that last quote.)
Once again, Peter assures everyone he can explain, then makes everything way worse. Apparently, when his daughter was born, God warned him that she would grow up to be too hot for her own good. Sure enough, a rich guy eventually saw her bathing and asked for her hand in marriage. Peter and his wife declined his offer, probably because their daughter was 10 years old at the time. Sadly, To Catch A Predator wasn't on the air yet, so the rich guy simply returned and carried her off. But Peter knew that all things are possible through God, so he simply prayed for her to be stricken with palsy. Once she was paralyzed and twitching, the rich guy lost interest and dumped her on the doorstep with her virtue intact. A happy ending!
Peter stands behind his decision 110%, even though the rich guy is now dead and there's no real reason for his daughter to stay paralyzed. In fact he goes one further. When a gardener comes to him worried about his daughter's virtue, Peter solves the problem by immediately killing her with a magical word before she can lose her virginity. At some point, it just starts to seem like Peter might have a problem with daughters in general.
The book known as 3 Maccabees was written in the 1st century BC. Many early Church fathers referred to it, but it's now considered semi-canonical only by Orthodox churches. It tells the story of the story of how the Jews escaped the wrath of the Egyptian king Ptolemy IV and his army of drunken death-elephants. It's unintentionally very funny, because all the "miracles" it praises at length are clearly just the king being in the middle of a drinking binge.
Ptolemy tries to enter the Temple in Jerusalem, but miraculously collapses and has to be dragged out by his soldiers. He returns to Egypt, but while getting blitzed with his drinking buddies, decides to wipe out the Egyptian Jews in revenge. The Jews are tied up in the middle of Alexandria's racetrack, while Ptolemy orders his servants to get 500 elephants really drunk in order to crush the Jews in the morning. The king then "went back to his partying."
So elephant-crushing o'clock rolls around, but the king is still asleep. The book ascribes this to a miracle from God, surely the only reason a drunk guy might sleep through his alarm. After everyone hangs around awkwardly for a while "the person in charge of the invitations...approached the king and nudged him. After waking him with some difficulty, he informed him that the time of the banquet was already slipping by, and gave him an account concerning the matter. The king, after considering this, returned to his drinking."
The executions are rescheduled for the next day, meaning that the poor grooms have to get 500 elephants shitfaced for the second night in a row. Fortunately, Ptolemy wakes up disoriented and has no memory of ordering anything. He gets very confused and threatens to murder his servants for getting 500 elephants drunk to kill the Jews, who are like totally his best friends. Then he goes back to drinking and a couple hours later he angrily demands to know why the Jews haven't been trampled yet. At this point his servants lose patience and a furious argument ensues, which ends with the king vowing that they'll definitely, definitely kill the Jews tomorrow. The text again treats this whole incident as a huge miracle, rather than the king, now on day 40 of partying, having a blackout.
So after the third night of getting 500 elephants drunk, everyone once again gathers in the racetrack, where the Jews wail and cry, which can't have been great for Ptolemy's hangover. With his servants being trampled left and right trying to herd 500 woozy pachyderms, the king has a wild mood swing, starts crying and invites the Jews back to his palace for a big party instead. Everyone gets fucked up on wine and the Hebrews are saved. Thanks, late-stage alcoholism!
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